Monday, October 15, 2012

LD Update: Minnesota, Tampa Bay reach NASL Final; CSL playoffs begin

For the second consecutive year, the bottom-seed (6) Minnesota Stars eliminated the regular season champions to advance to the North American Soccer League's championship series. This time the reigning league title holders knocked off the expansion San Antonio Scorpions for the right to defend their title over the next two weekends against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The second-seeded side from Florida played a wild six-goal draw at home, advancing to the final series courtesy of their road victory in the first leg against the Carolina RailHawks, the side Minnesota dumped from the postseason at the same point a year ago.


Leg 1 Recap  |  Semifinal Preview

Saturday - Tampa Bay Rowdies 3 :: 3 Carolina RailHawks - Trailing by a goal from the 2-1 loss at home the week before, the RailHawks wasted no time on the road erasing the deficit and taking the series lead. Matt Luzunaris put the series on even terms in the 14th minute and Ty Shipalane capitalized on a defensive error less than four minutes later.

The Rowdies' Shane Hill, however, tied the series back up before the intermission from the penalty spot in the 39th minute after Mike Ambersley was taken down in the box. In the 65th minute Luke Mulholland found the open Ambersley to reclaim the series lead before finding the back of the net himself, scoring on the rebound of his own shot that caromed off the crossbar in the 84th minute. The strike gave the Rowdies a two-goal lead in the series, which proved too much for Carolina to come back from, though Nick Zimmerman pulled them within one on a penalty conversion in the 86th. It was the fifth draw between the two sides this season, the second to finish 3-3.  - MORE

Sunday - San Antonio Scorpions 1 :: 2 Minnesota Stars - Scoreless after the first leg, the deciding leg was arguably determined by league's leading scorer, Pablo Campos. The star striker scored the go-ahead goal off a rebound in the 25th minute after Jonathan Greenfield's cross that was flicked on goal by Hans Denissen was initially stopped by Matt VanOekel. A minute later, however, things took a dramatic turn in the other direction when Campos headbutted Kyle Altman after a foul, drawing a red card and leaving the hosts down a man for the remainder of the contest.

San Antonio stood strong for 50 minutes before the extra man may have caught up to them. A ball sent in from the top left corner of the box by Neil Hlavaty over three players - two defenders, one striker - looking for the header was inadvertently booted into the back of the net from seven yards by Blake Wagner, who was marking Miguel Ibarra at the top right corner of the six in the 76th minute. Five minutes later the Stars caught the Scorpions defense out of position with a long ball that gave Simone Bracalello plenty of space to skid a shot past Daryl Sattler.  - MORE


All four quarterfinal contests were shutouts in the opening weekend of playoff action. Montreal Impact Academy advanced to face the York Region Shooters with Toronto Croatia set to face the Serbian White Eagles taking in the other final four affair. Advancing in the CSL Second Division quarterfinals were Brampton City United B, York Region Shooters B, Mississauga Eagles FC B and SC Toronto B. - MORE